Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wintry Cowl, finished.

All finished! I was cheeky and tried to squeeze just one more round in, and ended up having to finish casting off with a little bit of stashed grey yarn (not quite the same colour or gauge, but not terribly noticeable). Must not be greedy.

I think I might wear it tomorrow to work.

Ravelled, here.

Kate Davies of Needled has mentioned in her latest blog post that she's working on a design with lots of sheep on it, similar to those in her Sheep Heid hat (which is amazing, btw). I'm really really hoping that it's going to be the love child of the Owls sweater and the Sheep Heid hat. If it's not, I may just have to mash-up the patterns and do it myself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is officially the Saddest Day To Be An Expat. Fellow Americans are having an epic four-day weekend, feasting on turkey, and generally making merry. We expats, though, are working (as celebration of the survival of the rebels is frowned upon), having a normal dinner (since making a complete turkey dinner takes ALL day), and generally feeling slightly homesick.

We are, however, having a mini-Thanksgiving (with roast chicken, since I forgot to pre-order my turkey this year) on Saturday.

Regardless of country and turkey-consuming status, I'm still very thankful.

For my family, and friends, on both sides of the Atlantic.
For the fact that my to-read, to-quilt, and to-knit lists are always full.
For the fact that it's now officially After Thanksgiving so I can start in on the Christmas music.

(The W from the Rangers quilt, mid-applique.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

We went on an adventure to Cambridge today. We rode the park and ride bus in to town, and sat downstairs because the bus was crowded. I think we were ahead of schedule, because when we got to the first stop (in record time), the driver pulled out a paperback and started reading (the bus was parked). Teehee! A fellow "I have 30 seconds spare so I may as well read a page or two" reader.

We window-shopped for a while, and then met up with my previously-of-Buxhall bell buddy Alison, who I hadn't seen in ages. We went to Jinling Noodle Bar again (with a backup plan in case they were "full" again), and had three bowls (one each, obv) of brisket udon. YUMSTERS.

Then we went and watched the Best Sparkly Vampire Movie So Far.

A few things.

1. To the Guardian: please do not send a grumpy-ass middle-aged man who does not like the books to review a teenybopper sparkly vampire movie. He will not enjoy it, and we will not enjoy his review. Thank you.
2. To the parents in the theatre who brought two 9-year-old girls to the 12-A movie: there is blood, sex, nudity (sort of), and lots more blood. It's a movie about vampires, for pete's sake. Please leave the kidlings at home. (We actually commented that we enjoyed it less because we were worrying about the long-term emotional impact on aforementioned 9-year-olds.) 
3. To my husband: you rock. Thanks for coming on a girly day out and letting me knit while you drove all the way to Cambridge, took us out to lunch, and then sat through a 2-hour teenybopper sparkly vampire movie.
4. To those of you who enjoyed the first three movies and the books: GO SEE IT. Fun sparkly vampires gazing soulfully at each other and running through the woods and jumping around in their underwear. AND they make fun of the fact that Renesmee is the most redonculous name ever.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Works in progress

I'm midway through two projects. First is my new grey cowl, ravelled here. The pattern is quite straightforward and good for watching tv, except for when said tv gets suspenseful and you accidentally purl two in a row instead of purl - slip - purl and then you have to unpick two rows. Ahem.

I still love my interchangeable knit-pro needles, so if you're on the fence about buying a set (and are in danger of accumulating too many odd-sized circular needles, go for it.

I have also finished the front and back of Ed's Rangers quilt. I've fused the letters on, and just need to zig-zag around them, then sandwich, quilt and bind. I think I'm going to free-motion around the front but avoid the letters. I even found, downloaded, printed out, and traced a New York Rangers font.

*We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement*

When you are making interfacing templates to cut out letters to iron them onto the front of a quilt, you must reverse the letters. Especially the N. No amount of flipping or turning will help. You're welcome.

*Normal service resumes.*

So, yeah, it's going to be snazzy. It's extra-long twin sized, since my brother is extra-tall and I want to make sure that he can stretch out under it while watching the Rangers games.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More Rusby!

Kate Rusby's new Christmas album is out today. I was going to resist the Christmas creep, but who am I kidding? It's excellent. Tomorrow might be a Rusby day on the iPod. With a little Tori mixed in for good measure. It sure is dark enough outside at 3:45, anyway. Small sadness: her closest tour venues to us are Nottingham (sold out) and London (on a night we can't do). Oh well, we had a good run with Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough, and Bury St Edmunds. Hmm...I might have a Rusby addiction.

I stumbled across this post from a transatlantic blogger, In the Left Lane, and laughed out loud.

My only amendments would be to change the first dates to 2006 and to add a few.

UK 2006: Why are all these cars so teeny tiny?
US 2011: How are these cars all so gigantic?! How do you people ever park?

UK 2006: Woah. This gas sure is expensive!
US 2011: HOLY CRAP this petrol is cheap!

John didn't find it as funny as I did...then again it's a fairly narrow subset of humanity who would.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas photo shoot: outtake

We were trying to jump. You know, to all be in the air at the same time like floating hipsters. 

Except we got this instead. Apparently the little flashy lights on the camera do not make it clear when the picture is actually going to be taken.

Must try harder. (Teenager looks exceptionally embarrassed. Can't think why.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Night Circus: A Marvellous Book

As Audrey Niffenegger writes on the front cover, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is marvellous. I picked up a signed copy (missed the author by 2 days, thank you for not providing an author-tour rss feed, Waterstones) when we were in Norwich a few weeks ago. The chap at the checkout was really enthusiastic about it, and there were recommendations by Neil Gaiman & Audrey Niffenegger on the promo posters. Well. That meant I had to buy it.

I was initially irritated by the fact that the edges of the pages are printed in black, but it turned out to add to the atmosphere, especially on the few occasions that I let the integrated red ribbon bookmark trail across the page.

It's set in the 1890s, around a world-travelling circus with real magic. I found it really atmospheric and entertaining, with likeable characters and very well-drawn scenes. The reviewer in the Guardian mentioned that she could smell the circus at certain points, and I agree with her. It was dark without being gloomy, and magical without farce. Highly recommend. [C, I think you might be annoyed by it, but try it anyway!]

I've also started on my brother's Rangers goes!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mini-manu for Gabi

Oh my. I first added this project to my Ravelry in October 2010. And then I cast it on in July. The actual knitting went pretty fast (and I loved the pleats at the top and the icord edging). I'm notorious for finishing a project to 95% and then not weaving in the ends. Evil Rowan sweater, I'm looking at you.

Since I bought the yarn about a year ago, I was aiming for the 2 1/2 year old size. Since, you know, Gabi was 18 months old at the time. Yeah. So by the time I actually got around to knitting, I decided to go with the 4 year old size. For which I had very nearly enough yarn but not quite enough to do the pockets. This is a girl who has stuff to carry, mostly acorns, leaves, and other assorted treasures. Pockets, then. In grey. I also edged the sleeves in the same grey so it would look a little bit more I did it on purpose. I actually quite like the way it turned out.

Ok, full disclosure. The sweater wasn't quite finished in this picture - the second pocket wasn't sewn on, I had a few assorted ends to weave in, and the buttons hadn't been added. Also, I'm not sure what I did differently on the left and the right pocket (I followed the pattern both times, or so I thought), but one is an "innie" right at the bottom where it joins the edging and one is an "outie." Who knows. Something tells me it won't be noticed as the wearer is running around in it.

It's all done now, though, and will be in the mail as soon as I remember to bring it to the post office!

Thanks again to the ever-amazing Kate Davies of needled. Another excellent pattern!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe: Apple & Raspberry Crumble

We went over to the in-laws for lunch today, and I brought dessert. I modified a few recipes and came up with a winner!

Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a rush getting out of the house with the VERY hot crumble (all wrapped up in tea towels) and then't any left after we finished dessert. This picture from two weeks ago will have to do!

With thanks to Mark Bittman, for his inspirational Rhubarb Crisp recipe in the New York Times.

[edited - we tried this again using this recipe and it made a very cookie-like topping. Watch out if you're making it by weight!]

Apple & Raspberry Crumble

Raspberries (enough to cover the bottom of the pan - mine were frozen from the summer)
2 cooking apples (I used bramleys)
3/4 cup (150g) Demerara sugar
1/2 cup (60g) plain flour
1/2 cup (45g) rolled oats
8 tbs (125g) butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F).
Put a single layer of raspberries in the bottom of your crumble dish (I used a medium-sized Le Creuset dish)
Peel, core and slice the apples, and layer them on top of the raspberries.
Mix the sugar, flour, oats and butter together (I used my fingers because I'm too lazy to wash the food processor). Sprinkle the crumble mixture onto the apples, and smush down with a fork.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling.

We served it with cream because we're bad. It was far and away the best crumble I've ever had. The filling was REALLY zingy and the topping was crunchy and sweet from the oats and the sugar.

It served four of us but we all had seconds. Hey, it's fruit!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Things I rather like

I have a few things that are not particularly exciting, but that I love. First, I had a really hard time getting my previous-favorite Vincent Longo liptint out here in the sticks. I found Benetint, by Benefit, and it works just as well. The only drawback is that the pot is quite a bit bigger than the other one, so it's not really viable for carrying around in my bag. It lasts most of the day, so it's not a huge issue.

John and I are both allergic to "normal" deodorants. Itchy and horrible. And my mom worries about aluminium. I found Salt Of The Earth crystal deodorant at Holland and Barrett. We are now neither smelly nor itchy, which is excellent. And it lasts FOREVER. We've been on the same stick for nearly a year, and there's plenty left.

I don't like tights. They roll at my waist and make me want to run away. These, though, don't seem to roll, and they're soft. They come in all sorts of different colours (on the John Lewis website), and hold the lumpies at bay without too much pinching. I also really like their 100% cotton tights, which I wear under a long skirt with boots in the winter and am snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug.

So there we go. Random miscellany. You're welcome.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Autumn (and a review)

It has felt really autumnal this week - the clocks went back on Saturday so it is now Properly Dark when I leave work. It has been windy and rainy but not super cold (yet), which is nice.

John has been making hot chocolate - lactofree milk, cocoa powder, and a little bit of brown sugar. James wanted whipped cream last weekend, so we bought a spray can (hadn't bought one in years and years!). Mmmm. There was plenty left, even after the boy put a giggle-worthy amount of cream onto his hot chocolate. Then John went all artistic with the cocoa powder. I feel like it's not a particularly unhealthy drink - a small amount of sugar (no more than you'd put in a cup of tea), a glass of milk, and some cocoa. Ok, well, until you add the whipped cream, anyway. That's only for special treats, I promise!

I finished Jodi Picoult's newest book, Sing You Home, last night. I read it in 2 days (how does she write books that just fly by?). I really enjoyed it, even if parts of it made me gnash my teeth in frustration at the characters. I tried listening to the music that was specially composed by a friend of hers for the "soundtrack" (the protagonist is a music therapist and singer-songwriter). Just, no. Oh, well. It's pretty hard to live up to the fictional amazing songs of a fictional character where every reader superimposes their own ideas of an amazing song onto the music.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reviews: Swallows & Amazons, Dark Is Rising

I read two "children are having dangerous adventures without adult supervision" books in quick succession. Inadvertently.

I'd been meaning to read Swallows & Amazons for years. I had no particular idea what it was about, only that it was on that nebulous list of "things I should read one day." Well, for the three remaining people on the planet who haven't read it, it's all about children in the Lake District, between the wars, who go on an adventure with their sailboat to an island in the middle of a lake.

I got the feeling that I'd have enjoyed it a little bit more had I been able to turn off my Camp Counselor instincts. 

The kids went sailing. In the dark. With no lights. More than once. And one of them can't swim. Oh, and they shot arrows at each other.

As a kid, this would have been deliciously scary and exciting.

As a 30-year-old ex-camp-counselor, it was extremely alarming. Oh, well.

I did, however, love it in spite of the "OH MY GOD THEY'RE DOING WHAT?!?" moments.

On Liz's recommendation, I read the first book from the Dark Is Rising series, again with the unsupervised children having adventures that are really rather dangerous. I liked all of the Arthurian references, and the book felt completely timeless.

Luckily, both books are the start of fairly long series, which is good to know.

On to the next ones!